14 December 2013
The Cuban government has cracked down hard on dissidents who dared to go out on December 10th, the day when the world celebrated Human Rights Day, according to sources from the island who have posted on the social networks.
In Baracoa, Jorge Feria Jardinez and Roneidis Leyva Salas, activists with the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) and the John Paul the 2nd Movement, were arrested while distributing leaflets about this issue, said Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, ADO Coordinator, in his Twitter account (@ Lobainacuba).
On the same social network, Lobaina reported arrests, beatings, and acts of repudiation in locations around Buenaventura, with the detention of Nelson Avila Almaguer, Ramón Aguilera, Jorge Carmenate, and Nirma Peña, all four with ADO. He added that activists were stationed in front of the town’s police station demanding the release of their brothers in the cause. In the same province, but in the village of Velazco in the municipality of Gibara, paramilitary mobs in coordination with State Security and the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) attacked the house of activist Damaris García, fired tear gas, and beat and arrested peaceful activists.
Among those arrested with Damaris were Marta Alina Rodríguez Pérez, Walfrido Pérez García and Gelasio Pupo Verdecia, all from the same opposition alliance.
In the capital arrests occurred when activists, artists, and other members of the independent civil society tried to reach the headquarters of the Estado de Sats Project, led by Antonio Rodiles. According to the twitter account of Ailer María (@ ailermaria), his wife and arts coordinator of the project, they had learned of more than a dozen arrests that occurred starting on December 9th when participants in the 1st International Conference on Human Rights tried to approach the site. The venue was harassed by an act of repudiation, a military siege, and a “revolutionary act” by the well-known orchestra “Arnaldo y su talisman,” according to reports arriving from Havana. Other groups suffered persecution, harassment, and abuse at their homes.
Bertah Soler, leader of the Ladies in White and 2005 Sakharov Prize winner, was arrested along with her husband, Angel Moya Acosta, when she had summoned her members and the entire civil society to march and gather on the corner of 23rd and L, across from the Coppelia ice cream parlor. Those who made it were violently arrested and transported to remote places; Soler was taken to the village of Tarara.
On the morning of December 10th, President Raul Castro attended the funeral of South African president Nelson Mandela. He was greeted with an unanticipated “handshake” by U.S. President Barack Obama, who said in his speech: “There are leaders who support Mandela and do not tolerate dissent,” a clear allusion to the Cuban dictator and to the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, also present at the gathering.
Translated by Tomás A.
11 December 2013
Men who believe themselves to be free manage to break the bars imposed on them by authoritarian regimes. The Cuban Writers Club (CEC), established in Havana in May 2007, is an initiative that arose from the desire for free literature, poetry out loud, and a way to rub up against life as if they were living in a free country. A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune of having lunch and chatting with one of these free men, Víctor Domínguez. Armando Añel delivered him through the crazy Miami traffic.
“A group of writers, some of the members of the official National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), others from the Hermanos Saiz Association (AHS), but all of us marginalized from the institutional spaces because of ideological problems, realized we needed our own independent space. We are more than fifty writers from the whole county, and twenty of us have published works, which is an accomplishment,” says Victor Manuel Dominguez, co-president of the Club.
Dominguez is one of Havana’s veteran independent journalists who survived the hardships, arrests and police harassment. “Twice they have expelled Jorge Olivera Castillo and me from literary and cultural meetings we were attending — once it was in the Cuba Pavilion — and we have to say that we are here and we are going to continue doing our literary work despite the repression and censorship,” said the author of the banned and still unpublished novel, “Operation Cauldron.”
The fruits they already taste
Jorge Olivera Castillo is one of the independent journalists who has survived hardships of every kind. He is the founder of Habana Press, a banned press agency born in the long past year 1995; he was sentenced to 18 years in prison in the well-known Black Spring of 2003, and today has nearly a dozen books published by helping hands around the world.
“It was prison that made me turn to literature, and especially being at the side of Raul Rivero, unfortunately now in exile. I was in solitary confinement for a year, in a cell in Guantanamo, six hundred miles from my home in Havana, but literature helped me to survive,” Olivera Castillo said with pride.
The award of the Franz Kafka Novels from the Drawer Prize to Frank Correa Romero in 2012 for his work “The Night is Long,” and that fact that 2010 was “a great year” for Olivera Castillo, made them realize they were beginning to reap what they had sown.
Jorge Olivera Castillo has published nearly a dozen books of poetry and prose. Publishers from half the world have helped him, not because of his having been condemned to 18 years in prison in the 2003 Black Spring, the only criterion is the quality of his writing. Olivera saw his book of poems appear almost a decade after they were written: “Lit Ashes” (Polish-Spanish, Lech Walesa Institute, 2010), and from Galen Publishing (French-Spanish) “In Body and Soul,” which had been published in 2008 by the Czech Pen Club.
The world, all the worlds
In Havana, the Swiss, German and Czech embassies have opened their doors to these bards to develop their literary gatherings, blocked by the authoritarian regime. The German Romantic Period, the work of A. Von Humboldt, the dramas and poetry of Polish writers, as well as readings by their own members, are part of this unique Writers Club.
The digital magazine Puente de Letras (Literary Bridge) contains all of this flood of creation: the list of its members, the prizes they have won, fragments of works half done and on their way to publication, are part of the mission of this attractive digital site.
Authors such as Luis Cino Álvarez, Juan González Febles, María del Carmen Pino or Manuel Cuesta Morúa have presented their stories, poems or essays on the Puente de Letras magazine and website.
Looking ahead, they have made this bridge to the future. “This is a source of feedback, you write and life gives you these prizes: the books, the friendship, the sharing,” Olivera concluded.
2 December 2013
The Association for Freedom of the Press (APLP) is an organization to disseminate the work of independent journalists in Cuba. Recently I spoke with José Antonio Fornaris, one of its officers, and with Juan Carlos Linares Balmaseda, manager of public relations and it’s well worth taking a tour of its site.
Recently they gave out the awards for their contest: Newsprint. The winners were Augusto César San Martín, in the genre reporting; Filiberto Perez del Sol, chronicles; Ernesto Santana (member of the government-sponsored Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba), in interviews; and Dimas Castellanos, in op-ed. Special mention went to Sergio Esteban Vélez in interviews.
The prize for the winners consisted of a certificate, 250 convertible pesos ($225) and a statuette carved in wood, which — according to the artist Iley of Jesus — its Greek column represent democracy, the wings represent freedom and the pencil, freedom of expression. For the honorable mention the award consisted of the certificate and the statue.
In conversation with the public relations person, Linares Balmaseda, he said: “We are driven primarily by desire to tell the world what is happening in our environment, in a dictatorship that blocks our right to freedom of information. But most important is to say it from within the island, because they are the ones who are reporting on the changes that must occur on the road to democratization, that is what makes the APLP,” he said.
12 November 2013
Once again the graphic artist Rolando Pulido echoes the suffering of Cuba and has prepared a poster calling for solidarity with Angel Yunier Remon Arzuago, who as of Thursday has completed 22 days on hunger strike, in protest of a prosecutor’s request for an eight year jail sentence, for a supposed attack.
In conversation with the wife of the controversial rapper, Yudisbel Rosello said that they had put a tube in the rapper’s neck to feed him, because he could no longer bed fed through tubes in his arm.
The young woman also reported that Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Provincial Hospital in Bayamo, where her husband Remon Arzuaga has been admitted, is completely guarded by police and State Security.
The organization NetForCuba called a protest: Thi Friday, 8 November, at 7:00 PM we will gather at the Versailles Restaurant in Miami to protest for the release of the rapper Yunier El Critico.”
7 November 2013